October 1, 2006

I blame Bob Mondello

My family loves me. After all, I'm still alive after they came with me to Half Nelson, which I asked for since Bob Mondello gave it a positive review in August. It didn't open in Tampa, so we had to wait until it came here this week at the Tampa Theatre.

(Warning: movie spoiler ahead.)

Mondello's review was the most misleading recommendation of a movie I've relied on since my mother assured my father and I almost 20 years ago that Prick up your Ears was a comic farce. Mondello correctly described Half Nelson as the reverse of the standard heroic-teacher genre of film. But the film is better as a negative object lesson of everything you don't want a teacher to do than as serious film. This pitiful excuse for a teacher still ends up as a magnet for 13-year-old Drey. And in the end, the writers left Drey rejecting the neighborhood drug dealer and riding off on her bike... to go find the teacher after a late-night binge.  The false dichotomy (what about going home and spending time with her mom?) says a great deal about the ability of even so-called avant-garde film to reinforce stereotypes. A cliché reversal can still reinforce the source cliché.

My wife wanted the teacher to drive his car off a cliff. But the movie was also set up for him to die by overdose, with Drey's mom (an EMT) finding him dead. Too bad the movie didn't take that alternative ending.

I have no problems with oddly structured or challenging movies. But in Half Nelson I didn't find myself challenging prior beliefs about education, race, social justice, or drug use. I just found myself challenged to believe I was still in my seat by the end.

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Posted in Random comments on October 1, 2006 10:33 PM |